At a networking meeting, you’re lucky to come away with five or six business cards and two or three potential follow-ups, but what if you’re attending a business or trade expo? How do you get the most out of an event like that? You can walk away with dozens of fresh business cards and contacts.
In the article, I would like to share some tips that I put into practice when I attended the Santa Cruz expo to promote a marketing workshop that I am going to give at the Chamber of Commerce.
6 Tips To Make The Most Of An Expose
Your Stand Or Table
I was offered a table at the fair at the last minute, so I didn’t have much time to prepare. I brought one-page flyers for the workshop and had two banners and a glass container to receive recruiting cards for the workshop.
However, a better booth will have at least one banner with your company name and identity, perhaps some flowers and gifts such as printed pens and business cards. An effective table doesn’t need to be complicated or sophisticated, but it should invite you to come closer. A few nice touches are some balloons and a tray of sweets (I always like…).
Your Printed Materials
You always need something to hand out at your booth, but don’t give away too much. I prefer fact sheets that give a description of your business and information to learn more, including your website address and email. For some companies, brochures with valid offers or discounts to buy at the same fair or expo are beneficial.
What you have to remember is that people collect a lot of information in an exhibition like this, that very often they will spill the content on someone’s desk for several days (or weeks) and perhaps never look at it again. So don’t spend a lot on your gifts!
Most people at a booth at an expo stand passively behind their tables, smiles fixed on their faces, waiting for someone to come up with a question. Well, that just doesn’t work very well, as people can take a look or walk around without getting involved.
Instead, what I do is stand in front of my table and ask a question to engage the people who are walking by. At the fair mentioned above, the question was: “Are you self-employed?” If the answer was affirmative, at the same time that he handed him a flyer he said: «Then I would like to invite you to this marketing workshop, which is organized by the chamber». Then he continued: “If you give me your business card, you’re entered into a raffle for a free seat in the shop.”
If you use this approach, you can engage people more and get a lot more cards to follow up on later. I also went around the room where the event was taking place and invited other exhibitors to the workshop and took their cards for the raffle.
The Recruitment Process
Getting interested is a lot like getting opt-in visitors to your website. If you don’t have someone’s card, what are the chances you are going to do business with them? Virtually none. Sure, it’s okay to give them some information, but you just can’t wait for people to call you. Remember: the ball is always on your part of the court.
A fair or expo always has a good share of fun. This was like a big party and everyone was in a very positive mood, upbeat, you have fun at meetings. But the day after the event, you wonder, what now? Where is the new business that we wanted to generate from the expo?
The new business is sitting there on that stack of business cards you picked up. Now it is necessary to take action and communicate with them as soon as possible, it is convenient not to let more than a week pass from the event.
What I did was scan all the cards and send them to my virtual assistant that incorporated them into a text file that I could import into my database. I use a program called MaxBulk Mailer for Mac; there is a similar program for PC, Mail Group. Google them.
As tempting as it may be, what you shouldn’t do is sign them up for your prep newsletter and start sending them a bunch of stuff. Most people feel it is spam (unsolicited mail) and it is the complete opposite of what you need.
But it’s not a problem to send some personalized emails that refer to the expo and reiterate your offer. No one will be offended by that.
All I did was send everyone an email mentioning the workshop and sending them a link to my site. I will send you another email as a reminder closer to the event. And perhaps my final email will be to offer you my new Marketing Plan book and to subscribe to my mailing list to receive my newsletter.
More Personal Tracking
Of course, at the expo, you may have had deeper conversations with some people you identified as potential customers. The most important thing is to write a few notes on the back of your cards and come back to them immediately after the expo, via email and phone. Don’t wait a week or two; move on while the memory of the conversation is still fresh!
In short, an expo is like a great networking event. The main difference is that you meet more people, you can make a stronger impression, and collect a lot more cards.